The play hardly ever works in practice.
But in the final game of the season, Dagan Rienks was right on the money.
"I told you about those trick plays earlier this week," senior wide receiver Peter Anderson said Saturday after scoring a pair of touchdowns in Colorado Mesa's 51-13 rout of New Mexico Highlands at Stocker Stadium. "I'm glad we completed that one. In practice it's almost always incomplete. Dagan, I told him to put his back into it, and he got it down there."
Late in the first quarter, already up 17-0, Rope Ruel threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to Rienks, who played a little quarterback at Paonia High School, and he let it fly.
And Anderson, who saw man-to-man coverage for the first time in weeks, ran straight down the middle of the field and gathered in the 55-yard pass. After he was tripped, he tried to stay on his feet into the end zone, but tumbled to the ground at the 2.
Two plays later, Ruel found Bradley Toussaint for one of his three touchdown passes of the game.
"Man, not even for my stats, I wanted (Rienks) to get one," Anderson said. "We're always talking about it. That was a great ball by Dagan. We repped it all year and probably only completed it three times in practice, but I'm glad we got it today."
Ruel was one of the last players to leave the field after the game Saturday, and as he headed for the locker room, was cheered. He looked back and gave a little salute after playing the best game of his career.
"I almost felt like a little kid out there having fun," said Ruel, who completed five of nine passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran in one touchdown, faking a handoff to Trey Windham and ducking into a gaping hole for a 6-yard run and a 17-0 lead.
"That was exactly the way I would like to go out," Ruel said. "All of the seniors just emphasized having fun all week and tried to be more relaxed as a whole team."
"Rope played the way he's capable," CMU coach Russ Martin said. "It was great for him to go out that way. Ever since that game against Black Hills when he came in and scored, he's been playing relaxed. That's the way he was capable of playing all year, and it was great for him to go out that way."
Nick Ciccio, as he's done all season, got the Mavericks (6-5, 6-4 RMAC) started, jumping a route on the far sideline for an interception and 42-yard return for a touchdown less than five minutes into the game.
"That's probably the majority of it, reading the quarterback's eyes, but that play was more film study," Ciccio said. "I have to give a lot of credit to Coach (David) Dodge, we talked about the switch concept all week and we knew we were picking one off.
"It was the snowball effect. Everything started picking up from there."
Anderson caught a 49-yard pass from Ruel, Jesse Rodriquez had a 7-yard touchdown catch, also from Ruel — all three quarterbacks played — and Anderson adjusted his route in the end zone with 56 seconds left in the first half, first looking for the ball on an inside route in the end zone, but the pass from Aaron Howard was to his other shoulder, but he still made the catch.
And as he and senior center Ty Leonard were running off the field, they had to have just a little bit more fun — they turned side-by-side cartwheels. And the 5-foot-11, 160-pound receiver and the 6-2, 260-pound center both stuck the landing.
"That was his idea, he just brought that up today, Ty did," Anderson said. "We were running off the field and he said, 'Cartwheel?' I said, 'Why not, what do we have to lose?' It was Ty's idea. All the seniors we came in with, there's only me, him and Rope on offense. I've been with him for awhile, so we just wanted to have a little fun."
It was 44-6 at halftime, and play got sloppy in the scoreless third quarter, with several personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called — Highlands' Matt Taylor was flagged and ejected for fighting, coming up after a tackle holding onto a CMU player's leg and taking a swing.
Anderson finished with six catches for 193 yards, Trey Windham, who scored a fourth-quarter touchdown, had his first 100-yard rushing game, finishing with 121 yards on 17 carries.
Ciccio and freshman Justin White each had an interception, Nic Smith, Darian Turner and Reed Rowan each recovered fumbles, and the defense allowed 216 total yards. Running back James Budgett proved hard to bring down on several of his 16 carries, but finished with only 44 yards.
"They were definitely tough," said defensive end Mason Newton, who finished with four tackles, one sack and 2 .5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, blocked an extra point and had two quarterback hurries in his final game. "They were athletes. It definitely wasn't Stickum on a couple of their pants. They're good athletes; Highlands always has great athletes."
The victory secured Mesa's sixth straight winning season and it was the first time all season the Mavericks won back-to-back games.
"It definitely went the way we wanted," Newton said. "A winning season's a winning season. How many college teams can say we had another winning season? End of the day, there's only one winner. It's crazy to have six straight winning seasons and hopefully seven. I think as seniors, we started to establish a mentality and a culture and hopefully it'll continue and be even better next year."
Martin echoed those thoughts.
"We have eight different offensive linemen who started and they're all coming back," he said. "All of our tight ends are back, all of our running backs. We've got Aaron and Hayden (Bollinger) and two redshirt guys. Receiver, we lose Peter but we've got an unbelievable amount of experience coming back. We lose Mason, Ricky (Hayes), Alec (Barcellos), Darian on defense. We've got tremendous numbers coming back, guys with extreme amounts of playing time.
"Looking ahead, I think there's some extremely bright days for this program."